The Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV: Fourie pips Am to No 13 jersey
AS part of The Glory of '95 series, three of IOL Sport's rugby writers decided to pick their ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV. Today we look at outside centre.
Candidates: Japie Mulder (1995), Jaque Fourie (2007), Lukhanyo Am (2019)
JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUIZEN
As has been the case with the two previous selections, of fullback and right wing, having to choose between the three outside centres just isn’t fair and right. The reality is all three men played huge and telling roles in helping the Boks get across the line in the three World Cup wins.
Japie Mulder, who wore the Bok 13 on 34 occasions over seven years between1994 and 2001, was a real powerhouse in the midfield; his strong and hard tackling possibly his best asset. Lukhanyo Am, who has been a revelation under Rassie Erasmus in recent times, was a key figure in Japan last year; his catch and pass to a flying Makazole Mapimpi a highlight of the final.
Forced to make a pick; it’s got to be Jaque Fourie.
The former Lions and Western Province man enjoyed a stunning Bok career, played mainly alongside Jean de Villiers, who was at 12, as the pair combined to become one of the great Bok centre pairings.
Fourie, standing 1.9m tall, was an intimidating figure in the midfield, but he was no power player - well, not normally. He had good hands and good pace in the wide channels, but when he wanted to, he could also turn on the raw power; just ask the British and Irish Lions of 2009, against who he scored the try of the year after a forceful charge down the right flank, busting through several tackles on his way to the tryline.
Fourie was also a master communicator in the backs and he was the Bok team’s defensive organiser for many years. He was a strong tackler who shied away from nothing. Fourie was a mighty big Bok and a man who played a huge role in the victory in 2007.
Jacques’ choice: Jaque Fourie
There have been some big hitters in this position, such as Japie Mulder in 1995 and Jaque Fourie from 2003 to 2011.
But for me, 2019 champion Lukhanyo Am just pips 1995 winner Mulder for the outside centre berth.
The Sharks star is probably a cross between the hard-tackling Mulder and the hard-running Fourie, with a vital touch of finesse that makes him a complete player.
It was a difficult encounter for the Boks in their opening defeat to the All Blacks, but even then, Am made a couple of timely tackles that prevented the three-time champions from adding to their early tries.
He got to see more of the ball in subsequent matches against Namibia and Italy, including a memorable burst upfield to set up Warrick Gelant’s try, while also scoring one himself against the Bok neighbours.
Am got more involved at the breakdowns as the tournament wore on, and he got another five-pointer against the Azzurri.
He was again on the defensive prowl in the quarter-final and semi-final against Japan and Wales respectively, working hard on the ground in particular. Am was unable to put Makazole Mapimpi away in the first half against the Japanese, but he more than made up for it in the biggest game of them all…
Despite an early knock-on in the final, Am provided that familiar safety net that enabled the likes of Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Faf de Klerk to close down space.
Am had a hand in both Springbok tries – first sweeping the ball out wide for Malcolm Marx to put Mapimpi away, and then delivering a delightful final pass from the chip kick to send his Sharks teammate over.
For the coup de grace, Am just delayed his pick-up of a loose ball to Du Toit, who found Kolbe to finish things off.
Throughout the magical seven weeks, his defensive organisation and ability to make spot tackles stopped many opposition attacks in its tracks.
Ashfak's choice: Lukhanyo Am
In 1995, the Boks had an exceptional outside centre in Japie Mulder, and he enjoyed a very good partnership with his Transvaal teammate Hennie le Roux.
When Mulder retired, the No 13 jersey went to Robbie Fleck, a maverick centre that could be delightfully all over the show when his flair kicked in, and in ’99 he was an important part of the Boks’ bronze-medal finish (they beat New Zealand in Cardiff in the play-off for third place.)
At the 2003 World Cup in Australia, Jorrie Muller was coach Rudolf Straeuli’s choice, and the less said about this the better... Let’s just let this one go.
So we come to 2007, and I am warming up to who I think is South Africa’s best ever No 13, Jaque Fourie.
“Mossie” as he was nicknamed was an incredible player, both on attack and defence, plus he was a very popular squad member. He has a wonderful sense of humour and many a Springbok teammate has spoken of Fourie’s warm contribution to the team environment.
It might not be a World Cup moment, but which Springbok fan doesn’t vividly recall Fourie’s magical try against the British and Irish Lions in the series-clincher at Loftus Versfeld in 2009?
In 2015, Jesse Kriel wore the No 13 jersey, and solidly so without setting the world on fire.
Last year, Lukhanyo Am was excellent in Japan, and his creation of the match-winning try for Makazole Mapimpi will live forever on but, for my money, the best World Cup Bok at outside centre is Fourie.
Mike's choice: Jaque Fourie
Jaque Fourie wins it by two votes to one.
Ultimate Springbok World Cup Final XV (so far): 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jaque Fourie ...